Child poverty, suicide central issue at annual MLK conference

By Lincoln DePradine

Dr Mansfield Edwards

Dr Mansfield Edwards, a Seventh Day Adventist pastor, is concerned about children growing up in poverty and about reports of suicide among disadvantaged groups in a “prosperous nation’’ like Canada.

He wants to do something about the situation and he’s challenging others to join him.

According to Edwards, his challenge is based on a “core value’’ – commitment to serving others – that has been embraced by others, such as the late American civil rights leader, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.

“King saw value in people and so he purposed to afford the relegated and the marginalized, dignity and respect, inspiring trust and confidence,’’ Edwards said at a recent Martin Luther King, Jr. event.

“We need to help others. It may be volunteering at a homeless shelter or just holding the door for an elderly person at the grocery store. We ought to be intentional in doing something for others.’’

Jamaican-born Edwards, who has served as president of the Ontario Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, was the featured speaker at the 2022 Martin Luther King annual commemorative event organized by Educational Foundation for Children’s Care Canada (EFCCC).

During the online event, EFCCC presented post-secondary school scholarships to 10 students, who all expressed gratitude for the assistance.

Kiana Hall, a scholarship recipient, thanked the foundation “for the difference they are making in the lives of students’’.

“With the help of this scholarship, I’ll be able to accomplish this goal that I have set and give back to a community in need,’’ said Hall, who is in a social work Master’s program at university in the United States.

Others recognized on the evening were five adults that EFCCC said have been contributing to uplifting and building their communities.

“I want to encourage others to do the same thing that I have done – be of help, be of service, to your community,’’ said Dr Sheridan Cyrus, one of the five recipients. “You will learn a lot from it, you will get a lot from it. It would be very rewarding.’’

Dr Sheridan Cyrus

Cyrus, a dental surgeon, is owner and operator of Sheridan Cyrus Dentistry in Malvern.

“All of my adult life, I’ve tried to be of service to the community. I always thought, before I started, that others would learn something from me and others would be able to get something from me,’’ Cyrus said. “What I found, as the years went by, is that I was learning from the community and I was getting a lot from the community. I’ve found that it has been a great help in my life; great help as I try to raise my children; great help with my business and my marriage.’’

Edwards, in delivering his address, argued that both individuals and organizations need to have “guiding principles’’ in order to succeed.

“More and more, we come to realize for organizations to succeed, and for individuals to live worthwhile lives, there needs to be guiding principles which dictate behaviour. These principles are called core values,’’ said Edwards, a former adjunct professor in ethics and philosophy, School of Nursing, Northern Caribbean University in Jamaica.

Apart from a commitment to serving other people, two additional core values that Dr King possessed as part of his life and ministry, were compassion and “a passion for an equitable tomorrow’’, Edwards said.

“He passionately looked forward for a tomorrow when there would be a realization that all people are created equal; a tomorrow in which we would treat each other with respect and dignity,’’ said Edwards, who also is chaplain for York Regional Police.

“Not long ago, I noticed that Statistics Canada reported that children from poor neighbourhoods, growing up in single-parent homes, are three times more likely to commit crime. What a stark reality, what a sad statement, in this prosperous nation. This, however, is an opportunity for our intervention as we build toward an equitable tomorrow,’’ Edwards said.

King’s compassion was inspired by love, said Edwards. He quoted King as saying, “He who hates does not know God; but, he who has love has a key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.’’